Success often depends on being "in the right place at the right time." How often have you heard that said? Is it luck, or something more? Obviously, having a tool to predict "the right time" would give one an advantage. That thought was, and is, most likely the major motivator for the continual development of astrology through the ages.
Many methods of astrological timing exist, and most of them are quite technical—astrology is a complex field. One method stands out as easy enough to be used by non-technical types who've studied astrology only very little. Planetary hours can be used by anyone with the patience to learn to recognize seven planet symbols and to understand basic interpretive meanings of each of those seven planets. This article will introduce you the method, and also to the "magick" that I consider to be a highly important ingredient for the most effective use of any astrological technique for electing (choosing) the appropriate timing for planned actions.
One of the oldest methods of choosing the most propitious time with astrology is the symbolic system of planetary hours. Because this system was developed many centuries before the invention of the telescope, it uses only Sun, Moon and the five planets that are visible to the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. These seven planets, according to a Chaldean order that arranges them from slowest to fastest in motion, are said to rule the hours of the day in a repeated sequence that is quite elegant in its structure. Each day of the week is named for a planet. The planet ruling the day also rules the sunrise hour and then each hour the next planet in the Chaldean order rules following in a repetitive sequence. The next day will be the one that is named for the planet that, in this repetitive sequence, has become that day's sunrise planetary hour. The simple elegance of this system can best be seen in a spiral design.
Until the recent revival of ancient methodology through translations of historical texts, modern astrologers had neglected the planetary hour system, possibly because it is symbolic and thus deemed not as scientific as the actual daily positions of the planets according to precise astronomical calculation. Practitioners of magick, however, continued to use planetary hours as they had through the ages, both because using them is easy, and because they work! Within the past few years, many astrologers have rediscovered planetary hours and in observing how they work, have found the method to be well-worth reviving.
In using planetary hours, it is important to realize that a planetary "day" is not the same as our calendar days, nor does an hour necessarily contain sixty minutes. Planetary days begin at sunrise, so the hours between midnight and sunrise belong to the previous day. In order to account for the seasonal difference in length of daylight, the amount of time in each hour is different in the day from the night. Only at the equinoxes are hours about six ty minutes each day and night. At Summer Solstice (the longest day of the year) the daytime (diurnal) hours are much longer than the nighttime (nocturnal) hours. At Winter Solstice (the longest night of the year), the nocturnal hours are much longer than the diurnal hours.
You can figure the planetary hours out for yourself if you know the sunrise and sunset times for your area. For diurnal hours you figure the total amount of time between sunrise and sunset and then divide by 12, to find out how many minutes to assign to each planetary hour. For nocturnal hours you figure total time from sunset to the next sunrise and divide by 12. This method is slow, though. Quick methods are easily available.
With perpetual planetary hour tables such as are included in my book A Time for Magick you can do a quick look-up of the planetary hour for any day of any year in any location. To interpolate the time in the tables to be correct for the time zone in which you live, you need only one simple + or – time correction for your location. An extensive city list with time corrections is also included in the book.
The choice of which planetary hour will be best for your planned action is a matter of knowing which planet most favorably corresponds with your intent for that action. Most of the text of A Time for Magick is devoted to helping the reader understand the energies of each of the planets through knowledge of their traditional correspondences and also intuitively, through meditation and ritual. Because intents can be complex and each planet has many correspondences, additional study beyond this article is highly recommended. Still, many activities can be matched with this simple summary:
I've found it interesting to have a planetary hour listing at hand while silently observing a group activity, and you might try that, too, in order to get a feeling of how moods can change with the hours. For example, I remember observing a meeting where during the Moon hour the debate over issues went 'round and 'round with many feelings expressed but no resolution. Just when the hour changed to Saturn, the mood became quite serious. The group got down to business and decisions on several issues were resolved. Then, the lunch break was announced and everyone got up and began chatting happily. I looked at my planetary hour list and sure enough, the hour had just changed to Jupiter.
Here are a few examples of how planetary hours might be used in daily planning:
A Personal Anecdote of Planning Actions with Planetary Hours
In order to demonstrate how one can work with the planetary hours and other transits, I'll tell you about a workshop I conducted a year ago at an astrological conference. It was at a time when I'll bet that some people, having looked at their own transits, as I did, might have wondered if staying home might be a wise move. It was less than two months past September 11, and I was to fly to Toronto on a Full Moon Thursday evening, and then on Friday afternoon I was to do my three-hour workshop on astrological timing and ritual. The much-talked about Saturn-Pluto opposition was exact on the day of my workshop, and the degrees in which it was exact put Pluto precisely on my Ascendant and Saturn on the Descendant. Jupiter was stationary retrograde and the Moon was void of course when my workshop was to begin. In the string of Moon aspects following her entrance into Gemini a little over an hour into my workshop time, she would conjunct Saturn and oppose Pluto. If all that astro-jargon evades any readers, let's just say that if I'd been allowed to freely choose my time to do this workshop, this time would not have been it! But…if I'd attempted to duck that time, I'd be denying important points I'd fully intended to make in that workshop—and intend to make again within this article in "The Magick" section to follow. Obviously "walking my talk" meant accepting the challenge to work well within whatever time I was assigned. I planned my workshop to use the planetary themes of the three-hour period in which it was scheduled, including a ritual design based on the Moon as mediator between the clashing Saturn and Pluto.
The workshop began in the hour of the Moon and would change to the hour of Saturn less than a half hour later. The Jupiter hour would take the greater portion of the middle hour, and the final hour of the workshop would be Mars. I began with a general introduction to easy timing techniques, with a major focus on the lunar phases. I announced to the group when the Saturn hour was beginning, saying that we'd use its theme at its best to cover the technicalities of the planetary hour system in a disciplined manner. I used an overhead and transparencies to demonstrate the use of the tables and the time corrections for Toronto. With the Jupiter hour I introduced the value of ritual and magick for the intuitive understanding of the planets and for helping to focus the mind toward desired goals. I asked for volunteers to take various parts within the ritual, gave the two key players, Saturn and Pluto, a little skit for their part, and called a ten-minute break to set up. Only a few of the class had any previous experience with ritual and because of this, I knew some would be uncomfortable with it, so I let everyone know that their choice to participate or watch was entirely voluntary and fine with me either way. As it turned out, I was extremely fortunate in my two main volunteers, for both had a wonderful flair for improvised dramatic effect and they made terrific use of the break time to talk over how they'd do the skit.
The ritual began with somewhat over half the class gathered in a circle around a center table and the rest remaining in their chairs to watch. I led them through a simple casting of the circle, followed by four volunteers who called the four elements (air, fire, water, earth) to the cardinal points. After invoking the Goddess Moon and the two Dark Lords Saturn and Pluto, the fun began, with a skit that was both very meaningful and also entertaining as my two Dark Lords squared off to the point of pushing each other around as they argued their points about the necessity to tear down and transform old structures and rebuild newer and better ones. By the time I, as Moon, had interceded, and Pluto began to pass out small black stones in which participants could will those old habits and structures they wished to banish, everyone in the room was ready to participate and all did. I collected the stones to return to Earth Mother, and then Saturn passed out cords for knot magick. The intent and action of that was for each person to make one or more commitments to positive and responsible future action (building anew). The act of tying a knot firmly into the cord would be to bind oneself to carry out the commitment. Now into the Mars hour, we raised energy to charge the magick with a spirited chant, after which each person was invited to choose three little paper stars I'd scattered on the center table face down. The stars were of three different colors, one of which carried a symbol for one of the planets, another the number of a house and the third color, a symbol for one of the zodiac signs. Since all participants were astrologers, they could easily interpret the three stars they drew for a personal message.
The workshop concluded with the sharing of experiences within the ritual, and questions and answers centering mostly on the use of magick and ritual. All in all, it was a good experience for me and appeared to be for the participants. I experience absolutely no "downside" Saturn-Pluto events during this time, despite the exact transits of the two to my own chart. I like to believe that this was one of a number of personal examples I've given myself that if I deliberately choose to "do" my transits in a positive manner, more often than not, positive manifestation prevails.
Nearly always, after an event has passed, a clear and appropriate correspondence of the event to astrological phenomena can be demonstrated. Looking ahead is far less exact. Why is that? Primarily because nothing in astrology can be interpreted in only one way, at least not in any detail. Each planet or planetary configuration has a general theme, but within that theme there are multiple potentials with wide range from "good" to "bad," depending on one's point of view. Obviously, picking the "right" planetary time is not enough. Your intent and your will to carry out that intent are not just equally as important, but more so.
A common phrase you've probably often heard is "thoughts are things," referring to the observation that if one thinks strongly enough about something, the thought often becomes reality. This can happen naturally, when one wishes or fears so strongly that, for good or ill, what is wished for or feared becomes a "self-fulfilling prophecy"—and from that has emerged another phrase you've probably heard: "Be careful what you wish for, because you may be so unfortunate as to receive it." Some might prefer to call the act of strongly and deliberately focusing the mind to achieve a desired purpose "creative visualization" or "mind control." I prefer to call this "magick." Whatever you choose to call it, the point is this: focused intent can effect desired change within one's consciousness, and when change occurs within, change in one's outer world occurs, as well.
Magick is a good one-word definition for an attitude and a belief that the primary power to direct one's future flows from within. The "k" differentiates the practice from the stage magic of sleight-of-hand or the experience of sparkly feelings without focused intent. The practitioner of magick knows that all is energy, and with a keenly focused mind and spirit energy can be moved such that will, intent and purpose becomes manifest in reality. Within astrological language specifically, effective use of magick depends on your attitude in believing that one's power comes not from the planets, but from within.
Electional Astrology (the specific branch of astrology for choosing the most propitious time in advance of an action) has been called the closest astrological methodology comes to magick. To make that true, it is essential to understand that a very big part of deciding what time will, in fact, be propitious (have a favorable correspondence with intended action), is dependent upon the astrological interpretation attached to the time chosen, and that can vary widely. Each planet has a unique general theme of expression, but within that are many possible interpretations, some of which could be "bad" for what you want, others good and others varying in shades in between. In electing a planetary hour, it is important to be very clear that you are also electing (choosing) your interpretation of the planet! Since you are doing the choosing, it seems only common sense to do so with the focused intent and belief that you can and will carry out the proposed action according to your chosen interpretation of the planetary hour in which you will begin that action. Magick can be done with the mind alone, but often ceremony in a meditative state of mind, including the use of tools of ritual that appeal to all the senses, will greatly aid focus, as well as enhance your ability to intuitively understand the planetary energies. A Time for Magick offers specific meditation exercises and ritual designs for each of the planets.
Try planetary hours! Among astrological techniques, this one lends itself best to the times when a quick timing decision must be made with no time to do more complex astrological computations, even if you know how. For those who do take the time to consult an astrological calendar for timing decisions, or to do complete election charts, it is well worthwhile to consider the planetary hour, too. Choose the planetary hour that best fits your intended action and take that action with the commitment, the will, the focus and the faith of magick. My view is this: if electional astrology is not being used with magical intent, it ought to be!